Tuesday, 1 February 2011

A2 Government & Politics Pressure Groups Homework

The task set is to write a short paragraph explaining the impact that a chosen pressure group has had on a particular policy area. Examples of the policy area could be economic, environmental, civil rights related or deal with domestic social issues or foreign policy. You should outline the position taken by the pressure group and show how it related to a politician, party, individual bill or Supreme Court decision. You could also mention whether you think the pressure group has made a positive or negative impact on the US as a result of its actions. Your paragraph should be posted into the comments box and you should identify yourself by your initials only. All posts should be completed by midday on Friday 4 February.


  1. American Israel Public Affairs Committee.
    This pressure group promotes pro-Israel policies to Congress and the Executive Branch, working with both Democratic and Republican political leaders to pass policy to strengthen the U.S.-Israel relationship. Therefore its focus is on foreign policy and it has successfully passed more than a dozen bills and resolutions condemning and imposing tough sanctions on Iran during the past 15 years. This pressure group has wide support in congress demonstrated by President Obama requesting $3 billion in security assistance for Israel in 2011. I believe this pressure group has had a positive impact on foreign policy for America as it has strengthened the relationship with Israel by passing laws such as those in favour of Israel’s right to self-defence. In addition to this it has helped pass the prohibition of aid and contact with Palestine until its leaders recognise Israel’s right to exist and ratify Israeli-Palestinian peace agreements.


  2. People For The American Way
    People For the American Way is a pressure group focusing on making the‘American Way’ real for every American. They focus on the rights of the people, such as freedom of religion, the right to justice in a court of law and the right to cast a vote that counts. So this pressure group focuses on basic rights for the public. They work through lobbying and through petitions that the public can support and sign up to. The People For the American Way have been very successful over recent years in many areas. The Indiana Law that voters must have a federal or state ID with them in order to vote, was declared unconstitutional by the Indiana Court of Appeals. People For the American Way campaigned against this law as people were missing out on the chance to vote, such as in the 2008 primaries where 12 nuns were turned away from voting because they had no photographic ID. Overall, they have had a large and positive impact on laws made and court decisions passed as they are protecting the rights of the people.

  3. National Rifle Association (NRA)
    The NRA, which was established in 1871, aims to protect the Second Amendment of the Bill of Rights – for citizens to keep and bear arms. It is the oldest continuously operating civil rights organization in the United States, and according to its website the NRA has nearly four million members. In the case District of Columbia v. Heller (2008), due to the NRA’s lobbying, the Supreme Court declared Washington DC’s ban on handguns unconstitutional. The group has been criticised by many as having a bad impact on America as it implies that citizens need to arm themselves to safeguard political liberties against threats by the government. Furthermore sine the increase in lobbying by the NRA, gun crime has also increased showing that the pressure group is having a negative impact on America.

  4. The American Civil Liberties Union was founded in 1920 and it has been influential in particular aspects of Constitutional law over the years. It sometimes provides legal representation or amicus curae briefs where they believe a case to be conflicting with civil liberties and the Constitution. The ACLU is non-partisan and has been critical of both Democrat and Republican policies in the past. In 1954, the ACLU filed an amicus curae brief in the case of Brown v. Board of Education which outlawed racial segregation in schools. I think that the nonpartisan nature of the ACLU and its focus on civil liberties means it has had a positive impact on the US.

  5. The National Women's Political Caucus was formed in 1971 by three hundred women who, in Bella Abzug's (founder) words " will settle for nothing less than equal representation in all levels of political participation". The NWPC is a national bipartisan grassroots organisation. Their main tactics include lobbying, state based caucuses and endorsing female candidates. The NWPC played a key role in the passing of the Equal Rights Amendment by influencing committee members, sending them letters that read "Everyday will be Valentine's Day when you pass the ERA". They have made a positive impact on the consideration of women's rights; however, their membership is limited to the profile of a white, democratic 25-40 year old woman. In order to increase their 'presence' in Washington they need to expand to black or impoverished women.


  6. AARP
    Formerly called the American Association of Retired Persons, the AARP claims to have over 40 million members - making it one of the biggest organisations in the US. It declares itself to be non-partisan and has particular interest in health care policy - although the AARP's decision in 2009 to support Obama's Health Care Reform resulted in 60,000 of its members leaving. The AARP's public profile influenced the passage of the 'Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act' through Congress in 2003, and in 2005 was again able to influence Congress to resist radical changes to Social Security. Due to its large presence at both federal and state level politics, the AARP has a large influence upon policies that affect the lives of its members. This is a positive impact upon the US as the AARP reflects the views of millions of people nationwide.

  7. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals
    PETA is the world's largest non-profit organisation about animal rights, based in Virginia. The four main beliefs of PETA are that animals are not to be used for food, clothes, exploitation or testing. The main campaign of the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is Kentucky Fried Cruelty, begun in 2001, seeking to change KFC's treatment of chickens raised for its restaurants. Since then, PETA it has protested more than 12,000 times against KFC. PETA lobbies governments to impose fines where animal-welfare legislation has been violated and initiates lawsuits against companies. PETA has faced criticism from feminists within the movement about the use of scantily clad women in PETA's anti-fur campaigns, and criticism in general that the group's media stunts trivialize animal rights. This group represents the views and feelings of millions of Americans, and is having a positive impact across a range of industries in America.

  8. The American Medical Association – AMA

    The AMA was founded in 1847 and is the largest association of physicians and medical students in the United States. Its mission is to promote the art and science of medicine for the betterment of public health, to promote public health, to lobby of legislation favourable to physicians and patients and to raise money for medical education. The group publishes a weekly journal called the Journal of the American Medical Association JAMA which is the largest circulation of any medical journal in the world. While its membership has decline in recent years, the AMA incorporates approximately 22% of US physicians and medical students within its membership. Its political positions have been controversial. In the 1930s the AMA attempted to prohibit its members from working for health maintenance organisations which originated from the Great Depression which violated the Sherman Antitrust Act and resulted in the affirmed conviction by the Supreme Court. Although vehemently against Medicare in the 1950s and 1960s, its position has reversed since its implementation and now campaigns against any cuts to Medicare. However, the AMA remain against any National Health Service plan such as the United States National Health Care Act. In the 1990s it was part of the coalition that defeated the health care reform proposed by Hillary and Bill Clinton. Some have criticised the AMA for coming across as a guild with its only intentions to improve wages and fees for physicians. Also, it acts very closely with the government and some think it is too open to government influence.

  9. National Education Association

    The NEA is a volunteer-based organisation and their stated goal is "building great public schools for every student" and was founded in 1857. At the local level, affiliates perform a variety of activities which may range from raising funds for scholarship programs to conducting professional workshops. State affiliates regularly lobby state legislators for funding and other resources; they seek to influence education policy; they campaign for higher professional standards for educators and support professionals. At the national level, the NEA lobbies the United States Congress and federal agencies on behalf of its members and public schools, works with other education organizations and friends of public education and provides training and assistance to its affiliates. NEA's has 3.2 million members. In 2000, NEA lobbied for changes to the No Child Left Behind Act to promote innovation, high expectations, and encourage development of 21st century skills in public schools, so can be seen as quite positive. The NEA's political support goes almost exclusively to the Democratic Party. Between 1990 and 2002, 95% of NEA candidate and party donations went to Democrats.

  10. American Conservative Union
    This pressure group was formed in 1964 following Barry Goldwater’s defeat in the Presidential election. The ACU is based on conservative ideology and is split into three bodies – the ACU, American Conservative Union Foundation (responsible for organising the Conservative Political Action Conference) and the ACU PAC which donates to and endorses conservative politicians, for example they endorsed Rand Paul and spent $1,226,243 on Republican candidates during the 2010 midterms. This doubtless helped the Republicans in the elections. Their yearly ratings of Congressional voting records are often used in campaigns. The ACU seeks to protect the Constitution, rights and conservative values and to limit the size of government and lobby the government on these issues. Although I may not agree with their policies or that they have had a positive impact on the US, the ACU has had a positive effect on American politics as it encourages political participation.

  11. International Brotherhood of Teamsters

    The IBT, founded in 1903, is a labour union representing both blue and white collar workers in the private and public sectors and has a membership comprising of over 1.4 million workers. Their aim is stated as "to get their just rewards and to make their organization as it should be -- one of the largest and strongest trade unions in the country now and beyond." As it is divided into 21 industrial divisions, one of the Teamster's most important duties is to organise caucas meetings and conferences in order to unite the group behind their campaigns. The group's history is rooted in the civil rights movement, when they enjoyed an affiliation with Martin Luther King, and they continue to work with the International Human Right's comission on behalf of social justice. Current campaigns include fights on behalf of workers in the school bus and transit, airline, continential fleet, and university industries, with another specific focus on cleaning up sea ports. Legislative priorities also include pension reform, recycling programmes, and supporting Obama's recent health reforms. Much of their political work is handled through their PAC, Drive.

  12. The American Family Association (AFA) is a non-profit Christian organisation which aims to preserve marriage, family and the sanctity of life. One of its main interests is protecting the idea of marriage as ‘the conjugal union of a husband and wife’, and voicing concern towards the ‘homosexual agenda’. It has a large support base, with 180,000 paid subscribers to its monthly magazine AFA Journal, ownership of 200 radio stations throughout America and control of two television stations, making it a very important pressure group in areas of social policy and civil rights. The AFA had a large impact on the passage of Proposition 8 in California in 2008, producing a 30 minute documentary supporting the measure which was distributed to 21,000 churches in California and it has also filed a number of law suits against attempts to allow same-sex marriage in America, for example in Seattle and Multnomah County in 2004. Furthermore, the AFA launch ActionAlerts to encourage their supporters to take political action towards certain issues, for example in 2000 they released an ActionAlert for the arrest of Jim Kolbe, who they argued broke Arizona state law against sodomy by being gay, and in 2006 against the National Education Association who supported teaching about homosexual marriage in schools. Whilst the AFA has the support of many Christian groups in America, it faces high levels of opposition towards its stance on homosexuality, with many suggesting that it is a homophobic organisation. Its success has arguably had a very negative effect on the rights of LGBT citizens in America, preventing the legalisation of same-sex marriage and targeting organisations which seem to have a ‘homosexual agenda’.

  13. The National Organization for Women is the largest organization of feminist activists in the United States. Since their founding in 1966, NOW's goal has been "to take action" to bring about equality for all women. Both the actions NOW takes and its position on the issues are principled, uncompromising and often ahead of their time. NOW is a leader, not a follower, of public opinion.
    Recently with the new Congress and a Republican-controlled House, NOW believes there is a serious possibility that proposals to slash Social Security benefits may go forward. NOW need President Obama and the Democratic leadership to draw the line against any legislation that would increase the retirement age or alter the benefit formula – either of which would significantly reduce Social Security retirement income.Therefore NOW have started a drive where women can send Obama a message to speak out against cuts on Social Security.


  14. National Wildlife Federation
    The National Wildlife Federation began in 1936, it is America’s largest conservation organisation and has nearly 4 million supporters across the country. The aim of NWF is to protect wildlife and their habitats. They do so by trying to educate ordinary Americans to protect the wildlife and by influencing government legislation at both a national and state level. Following a 5-year campaign led by the NWF, in 2009 the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative led to a $5 billion commitment from President Obama. The organisation also strives to protect the Endangered Species Act and cap pollution in the US. I think the pressure group has had a positive impact on America, its focus on the environment means that it campaigns for an issue that affects everyone.


  15. American Bankers Association
    AN industrial trade group and professional body,founded in 1875, representing bankers interests(largest group with 95% of the commercial banking industry as members). The ABA fought legislative efforts to regulate the fees banks charge customers to use automated teller machines (ATM) and has challenged in court the membership policies used by credit unions to gain customers. it also became involved in such issues as ATM accessibility for blind persons, predatory lending practices, Social Security reform, and Money Laundering.
    It formed the Education Foundation whose mission is to help bankers make their communities better through financial education; operating two national financial education programs for bankers- Teach Children to Save and Get Smart About Credit.Through its national programmes, it has helped more than 72,000 bankers teach personal finance skills to nearly 3.3 million children and young adults.
    The ABA's BankPac, the banking industry's largest political action committee, provides financial support to candidates for the US Senate and House of Representatives.

  16. The Christian Coalition of America is a conservative, Christian advocacy, grassroots pressure group which was represents the pro-family Christian right in America. It’s recent activity includes, Defence of the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy, Opposition to the Senate’s confirmation of Elana Kagan to the Supreme Court on the grounds that as she is “yet another radical liberal”, opposition to the Obama’s healthcare bill (disliked on the grounds of large government and tax but also the its implications on abortions) and defence of ‘Traditional Marriage’ as between ‘one man and one woman’.
    Much of their work depends on encouraging ‘pro-family Americans’ to contact their Congressmen, sign a petition or donate money. They also produce and distribute supposedly "non-partisan" voter guides.
    It is the largest pressure group for Christian activists in America, with over 2 million members. Its significance was illustrated in the 2000 election when more than 15 million evangelical Christians voted and more than 8o% of these chose Bush. However, whilst unhappy under Obama, their significance has weakened – they have not succeeded in any of their recent aims e.g healthcare was passed, Dont Ask Don’t Tell was repealed and Elana Kagan was appointed.


  17. The American Bar Association (ABA) was formed in 1878, and currently has 410,000 members. It plays an important role in the selection and nomination of judges, is an important source of advice and remains a major interpreter of law within the political system. Although the ABA is considered to be bipartisan, it’s rating of judicial nominees has been criticised for being too liberally biased, although with its unanimous “well-qualified” ratings of both Alito and Roberts under George W. Bush. Another important role of the ABA is its creation and maintenance of a code of ethical standards for lawyers. In July 2006, the ABA released a report that concluded that George W. Bush's use of "signing statements" violates the Constitution, and in 2010 it passed a formal resolution urging every state in the union to permit same-sex marriages. Thus the liberal bias of the ABA can be seen. The ABA's self professed goals to increase public understanding of and respect for the rule of law, the legal process and the role of the legal profession at home and throughout the world, hold governments accountable under law, work for just laws, including human rights, and a fair legal process, to assure meaningful access to justice for all persons and preserve the independence of the legal profession and the judiciary make it incredibly important in the USA, and show that it aims to have a positive impact on US politics, and I believe that this is indeed the case.